If Gary Janetti’s keenly observed memoir of his formative years, Start Without Me: (I’ll Be There in a Minute), is any indication, he’s always had a sharp eye and a sharper tongue.
That sarcastic sensibility has earned him fame and acclaim as a writer and producer for “Will & Grace” and “Family Guy,” creator of the British sitcom “Vicious” and star of the HBO Max animated show “The Prince.” Now, in this follow-up to 2019’s Do You Mind If I Cancel?, which focused on his career beginnings, the raconteur extraordinaire journeys back to his precocious childhood in 1970s and ’80s Queens, New York.
Those years had many glorious moments for Janetti, and readers will gleefully snort at his hilariously spot-on recollections. In grammar school, “The Carol Burnett Show” provided life-affirming joy. In freshman gym class, he discovered a prodigious talent for and love of square dancing. During his sophomore year, horrified by the prospect of football, he cleverly manipulated the system by spending gym periods with a guidance counselor (and drawing from soap operas to keep her hooked on his imaginary troubles). Always, movies and TV were a balm for his inability to connect with other kids and his fear of people finding out who he really was. “The things I liked, I liked too much. The things I didn’t, all other boys did,” he writes.
Some essays give insight into how things got better for the grown-up Janetti, providing moments of loveliness among the operatic complaining. For example, after a lengthy critique of destination weddings, Janetti reveals with a wink that he married TV personality Brad Goreski on a Caribbean cruise.
Start Without Me is equal parts acid and heart. It’s a collection of sardonically funny stories about a firecracker of a kid who hadn’t yet found his kindred spirits. It’s a series of entertaining tirades about life’s indignities. And it’s an engaging look at the origin story of a man who, despite years of self-doubt, has finally embraced his particular superpowers.